Hyundai Nexo sets hydrogen endurance record

If you were to ask a Hyundai executive to describe the state of his relationship with hydrogen these days, he would probably say “it’s complicated”. Indeed, news about the Korean automaker’s various hydrogen programs seems – if not contradictory, at least puzzling – with the company’s announcement that its Nexo hydrogen fuel cell (HFC) crossover has been breaking through. Key records for endurance in extreme weather conditions in Europe come at almost the same pace with the news that Hyundai has halted development of its HFC Genesis.

What is really going on at Hyundai and what does the EU have to do with its future hydrogen projects? Read on.

First off, you can ignore this news that Hyundai is suspending the HFC program for its premium brand Genesis. Genesis has almost no presence in Europe, after launching the all-electric sedan G80 in this market last summer and committing to a BEV-only range, the HFC Genesis was realistically just a California car. at this stage.

What you cannot ignore is the bigger picture of Europe in general, which is still deeply committed to implementing a hydrogen infrastructure not only for cars, but also for scooters, taxis, first responders, commercial trucks, aviation and even rail. These are all arenas where we believe there is a strong case for hydrogen, especially in air. Hyundai intends to be a major player in almost all of these spaces, and Nexo’s extreme weather endurance record is intended to underscore that intention towards the EU.

Image courtesy of Hyundai.

Let’s talk about the disc itself. On December 14, 2021, French driver Adrien Tambay drove an original Hyundai Nexo for six consecutive hours in freezing temperatures of -6 degrees Celsius at an altitude of 2,220 meters (approximately 7,200 feet), completing 190 laps around the International Center of Records for Low-carbon vehicles in Val Thorens (Savoie, France) on a single “tank” of hydrogen. Tambay traveled 666 km (approximately 413 miles) in those six hours, giving him an average speed of over 68 mph. At the end of those six hours, the vehicle estimated it had approximately 50 km (31 miles) of range left. The group also claims that 267.8 cubic meters of air was “purified” in the process.

Putting aside the issue of “green” hydrogen and the somewhat dubious air purification claims, it’s hard to dispute the record-breaking race results. The Nexo behaved very well and could be refueled within minutes. As a demonstration of ‘go far, no tail shows, refuel quickly’, it’s hard to argue with the results – and that’s precisely what the French government wanted to see.

France is betting big on hydrogen

 Mob-ion hydrogen scooter
Image courtesy of Mob-ion.

The Mob-ion GT scooter pictured above is a hydrogen runabout that uses refillable cans, much like aluminum water bottles, to refuel quickly. You just put the spent fuel canister in a machine and get a refill – much like a soda fountain. The idea here is to allow a majority of the French urban population, who does not have access to home charging, to have access to a zero emission option.

In the United States, where scooters and motorcycles are a “way of life” rather than a traditional transportation choice, this may seem unimportant. In markets like Europe and Asia, where scooters are much more common, two-stroke oil smoke is a common pollutant. As such, these projects might appear to have more potential – so much so that the French government plans to invest more than 7 billion euros in accessible hydrogen infrastructure like this by 2030, of which 2 billion euros euros will be invested by the end of 2022.

Rail is also a big polluter. “Our rail network is today 45% non-electrified,” specifies Jean-Baptiste Djebarri, French Minister in charge of Transport. “We have two solutions: either we electrify, with the cost that this implies, or we go towards […] hydrogen, which obviously has a future in France, and a European and global market to be conquered. (I underline.)

This disc is not about the Nexo, in other words. This record is meant to show the EU that, of course, Hyundai may be going all-in on BEVs when it comes to passenger cars, but that’s still going to be a big part of the commercial future. of hydrogen in Europe.

Electek’s point of view:

We’re not yet convinced that there is a good use case for hydrogen in the automotive form factor. The battery model is excellent, and as charging speeds continue to rise and battery prices and weights continue to drop, the benefits of hydrogen disappear.

Hydrogen makes perfect sense for applications like air travel, but because of those same weight and density issues. Long-distance rail, boating, and trucking could also make sense for hydrogen. The question becomes: does the Hydrogen infrastructure, and how green it is, compensate for the ubiquity of batteries and electric charging infrastructure?

Origin | Pictures: Hyundai, Mob-ion, the government of France.

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